Meditations in the life of Abraham : 19. Abram’s Grace
Gen 13:8-9 Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
I’m not sure, if I’m really honest, if I would have been a full of grace as Abram was at this point. Remember, they have been confronted with a difficult fact: the land cannot host them both. They have both become so well off that there is not enough provision for their herds and flocks together. The only answer is that one of them must go!Lotdoesn’t seem to come up with anything and it is Abram, the older of the two who initiates change.
His starting point is that he doesn’t want there to be any upset between them. Abram is first of all a peacemaker. I wonder how many of us when confronted with a stressful relational situation have the basic intention of bringing peace. The more common response is to demand our rights. If we were Abram we would look at this situation and if we really wanted to play the spiritual card we would say, “Well I’m the one God called to come here. This place has my destiny wrapped up in. I’m sorry but it didn’t include you!” If we were a little less spiritual we would say, “I’m the elder and so I make the decisions and I will decide which of the land is mine and then what can be yours.” Those would have been very human responses and it is important to note those if we are to understand the wonder of Abram’s response. His response was as far from those we’re suggested, as you can get!
Look, he says, we’ve got the whole land infront of us which (implied) we’ve seen as we’ve travelled the length of it, so there is actually plenty for both of us if we split up. Ah now comes the tricky bit! Who is to go where? Well we’re going to have to part company but (implied again) you choose where you want to go. If you go one way, I’ll go the other. What grace in this older man! Lot, you do the choosing, you take what you want and we’ll go elsewhere.
We sometimes talk about death to self, and this attitude of Abram’s is about as selfless as you can get. It putsLotfirst. That is the crucial point – will we put others first? In this twenty first century we are encourage to grab our own rights, to put ourselves first, so the teaching here and, for us as Christians, runs contrary to that. Let’s consider some of the teaching of the New Testament in this respect.
The apostle Paul wrote at one point, “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (1 Cor 10:24) Love, he says elsewhere “is not self-seeking.” (1 Cor 13:5) Called to be a people of love, means we consider the good of others. But it is not only deeds, it is also about what we say: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” (Eph 4:29) But words follow attitudes, which is why Paul was also to say, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:3,4) There it is very clearly: actions follow attitudes. Wherever Jesus went, these things were seen in his ministry. Even though he was tired, he kept on ministering to the needs of the crowds.
Isn’t this exactly what is behind the whole Gospel that we sometimes take for granted: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” (Jn 3:16) God’s love for us was the motivating force whereby the godhead decided that Jesus should come to earth and die for us. This wasn’t that we deserved it; exactly the opposite in fact: “Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:6-8) That surely is the epitome of putting others first, but that is exactly what love does! That is exactly what we are called to do: “Love the Lord your God ….and, `Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lk 10:27) and “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn 13:34,35) This selfless sacrificial love is to be the thing that the world sees and responds to. He reiterated a little while later: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:12,13). Have we got the message? The call is to put God and others first, to put their needs first. Abram displayed that with Lot in our starter verses today.